Arkansas Aims for 11th SEC Title in 12 Years

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' only hiccup in the last 12 years at the Southeastern Conference Track & Field Championships came last year when Florida edged the Razorbacks by eight points (134-126) at Nutter Fieldhouse in Kentucky.

Don't think that the No. 1-ranked Razorbacks have forgotten that.

They enter this weekend's SEC meet full of confidence after a successful Powered By Tyson Invitational two weeks ago, but find themselves a sprinter short.

Not just any sprinter: Five-time SEC champion and defending NCAA 100-meter champion Tyson Gay.

Gay was scheduled to run the 60, 200 and 4x400 relay over the weekend and help Arkansas pull away from the pack by late Sunday afternoon.

With his absence (due to a sore hamstring he reinjured at the Tyson Invitational), the Razorbacks have fallen back to the rest of the conference's elite which should make for a nail-biting race for the title.

"I believe we have good people in solid events, but we have to go out there and prove it. Nothing is easy in this conference," Arkansas men's track and field coach John McDonnell said.

Sophomore sprinter Wallace Spearmon, of Fayetteville, will have some of the weight of Gay's absence on his shoulders as he fills a vacant block in the 60.

It will be Spearmon's first attempt at the 60 this season. He will also run his specialty, the 200, where he continues to hold the fastest time in the world this year in 20.36.

Preliminary heats for all running events -- except the men's and women's 3000 meters -- will be held Saturday with the finals on Sunday.

Spearmon will likely anchor the Razorbacks' potent 4x400 relay with seniors Omar Brown, James Hatch and Terry Gatson on Sunday.

At the Tyson Invitational, the Razorbacks finished in a close second place to LSU. Their time of 3:06.09 was the second-fastest time in school history and has them ranked fourth in the country behind SEC foes LSU (1) and Florida (3). They also automatically qualified for the NCAAs in Fayetteville March 11-12.

Arkansas' other relay, the distance medley, is the nation's No. 2-ranked DMR. Michael Grant, Harun Iman, Brian Roe and David Wittenmeyer are scheduled to run the event, though they are not the runners who set the fourth-fastest time in history with an automatic time of 9:29.25.

Arkansas has two high jumpers, Cory Oldham and Brent Rosson, in the conference's top six. Triple jumper Jaanus Uudmae is coming of a lifetime-best jump of 53 feet, 10.5 inches at the Tyson Invitational. It is good enough for tops in the SEC this year. Chessly Johnson has the fourth-best triple jump in the league.

"The field events have been a strong point for us," McDonnell said. "Last year we just didn't have anybody. This year some of those kids are back and I think they have grown up a little bit."

Arkansas' distance runners will also be a strong point for McDonnell again this year.

Said Ahmed leads the mile pack, but Arkansas is deepest in the 3000. NCAA provisional qualifiers Peter Kosgei and Adam Perkins team with Jason Sandfort and Shawn Forrest. Arkansas also has seven entries in the 5000.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories